Thanksgiving is easily one of my absolute favorite holidays of the year. I love to cook, but I’m afraid my Thanksgiving cooking resume is quite underwhelming. What do I make for thanksgiving each year? Usually, just one thing: a strawberry banana jello salad.
My family’s Thanksgiving traditions are a bit unique, but they’re some 30+ years running and I wouldn’t change them for the world! Not only is our thanksgiving dinner potluck-style, but we eat together with pretty much ALL of my aunts, uncles, and cousins on my dad’s side.
My dad is one of four siblings (his own dad is one of twelve, but that’s another story). A few of his cousins also join, so a typical crowd ranges from 50 to almost 100 people. I’ve never counted the number of dish options, but we have just about everything you can think of. Turkeys (smoked and roasted) stuffing, the best homemade gravy, mashed potatoes, casseroles, veggies, and desserts galore.
The best part about potluck style, is because everyone typically makes only one or two dishes–and have perfected those same dishes for decades–each one is absolutely delicious. We’ve got some great cooks in our family.
Did I mention dinner is served at the beach? Or that everyone pulls off all of this amazing cooking while staying in a campground full of RV’s for the week?
So yep, it’s definitely unique (although I must say, that campground is always packed with others who have lived the tradition for years too)! And I’m thankful we’ve talked my in-laws into joining the tradition as well!
All that to say, being on the younger side of the cousins, all I’ve really ever had to contribute was a jello salad. I’m not sure how many years it will stay that way, but while my kids are little I certainly can’t complain. And now you will also understand why I have never made a pumpkin pie before.
But this year, after my husband grew a ton of pumpkins, we decided to try making a pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin. I was surprised to learn that most recipes use condensed milk, so I set out to make one that didn’t.
Based on what I learned from using nuts in my Dairy-Free Tomato Cream Sauce recipe, I decided to try something similar. I’ve made it several times to perfect the ingredients, and I can assure you it’s very tasty (my father in law was the primary taster, since it’s his favorite).
How to Cook the Pumpkin
We tried the crock pot and the steamer, but the oven definitely worked the best and the fastest.
Cut the pumpkin (preferably a cooking variety) in half, scoop out the seeds, and place the halves cut-side-down on a cookie sheet in the oven. Roast at 350 for about 30 minutes or until it feels soft enough to scoop out of the shell.
- 2-2.5 cups fresh cooked pumpkin
- 1/3 cup pecans (plus extra for top)
- 2 eggs (or vegan sub)**
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (sub coconut sugar, or sweetener of choice)*
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon or more pumpkin pie spice
*I also tried making a pie with 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup pitted dates. It was fine, but obviously not as good as the full-sugar one!
** For vegan, I substituted the eggs with 3TB flaxseed meal mixed with 4 TB warm water. However, it did not “set” quite as well as the one with eggs, so I’d also recommend adding a spoonful of corn starch, and/or making mini-pies in a muffin tin. Use muffin liners or put them in the freezer for a few moments if you have trouble getting them out of the pan.
Use your favorite pie crust (I liked this easy one) or try this gluten free/vegan/paleo one below.
- 1.5 cup almond flour/meal
- 1.5 TB cornstarch or tapioca flour
- 1/8 tsp salt (+to taste)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1.5 TB sugar or substitute of choice
- 3-4 TB coconut oil, ghee or butter (just enough so that the crust will hold together when pressed between fingers)
- optional: 1 Tb flaxseed meal + 1tb warm water
Once you have chosen a nice baking pumpkin, slice it in half and place it open-part-down on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for about a half hour until it is soft enough to scoop out of the shell.
You can scoop the cooked pumpkin directly into the blender to purée and and then measure. You will need about 2 to 2.5 cups, depending on how deep your pie pan is (filling will rise a bit). If there is excess liquid, pour it off into a dish, but you should not need to strain it unless is VERY thin. The nuts and eggs will help to thicken the filling.
Add 1/3 cup pecans and purée in blender until smooth and creamy. Then add brown sugar, spices, and salt. Carefully blend until smooth. Finally, add eggs and blend on low just until well mixed. I have wondered if three eggs would be better (or to make a deeper pie) but haven’t tried that yet. Please let me know in the comments if you do.
If you’d like the added texture of a few pecan bits throughout, add a few more and blend on low just for a couple seconds. Or, chop and sprinkle them on top.
Blend together the dry ingredients of the crust, then add the oil, butter or ghee just until the crust holds together when pressed between your fingers.
Press the crust carefully into the pan, greasing the pan first if needed. (My crust recipe should have enough oil to not stick). This pumpkin pie is not as deep as some–you could try increasing the recipe a bit, but there’s a chance it won’t set as well or cook as fast.
Pour the filling into the crust and sprinkle the top with some more chopped pecans (these provide a little extra fun texture). You can even sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar if you’d like.
Bake for about an hour at 350 and enjoy!